Wednesday, July 23, 2014

THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED...WHERE?

I guess I should be happy but I'm not.

 On January 1, 2014, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, despite a firm "No new taxes" vow from our current governor, imposed a 10-cent a gallon tax on gasoline, for the purpose of repairing roads and bridges. Another 10-cents a gallon will be added in 2015, and an additional 8-cents will be imposed in 2016.

As a taxpayer and a driver, I suppose I should be grateful that roads and bridges, everywhere it seems, are under construction, but as a runner, our already dangerous sport, one in which we've seen several fatalities involving runners this year, has become more dangerous than ever.

In my hometown of Pottsville, our main thoroughfare, Market Street, was resurfaced approximately five years ago. The road was beautiful...for a couple of months. Utility companies seemed to salivate upon seeing a smooth new roadway. They couldn't wait to dig it up for this 'line,' and that 'line.' The latest 'line' is a new gas line, which will have portions of the 2-mile stretch of road dug up for the rest of the summer.

The Mar Lin Road, a narrow, windy, hilly rural road, located to the north of our city, is normally quiet and lightly traveled. For years, it was a favorite route of my running mates and I. Now, it has become almost impossible for a runner, walker, or cyclist to use the road, as traffic, diverted from construction projects, utilizes the road as a new super highway. Cars speed by, sometimes hugging the curves on two wheels. The speed limit is ignored, and there is no police force to enforce any traffic laws. Many drivers are rude, filled with road-rage, or distracted in some way. The other day, as I scurried to the side of the road as a vehicle drifted toward me, I noticed the driver was texting, and may have never seen me.

Fortunately, I have attempted to run the road during the day. Friends tell me that rush hour turns the Mar Lin Road into a speedway.

There are more runners these days, but there is more road construction, and many more distracted drivers who pay more attention to their electronic devices than to the business of driving.

What can we, as runners, do to stay safe?

First, make sure you're visible. Invest in anything reflective, from your head to your toes.

If the weather is bad, do not run on a road that narrow or heavily traveled.

Face traffic, and be careful with YOUR electronic devices. I love my running power play list (recently enhanced with
several songs by the Ramones), but, again, if you're running, say, on the Mar Lin Road, it may be best to keep the headphones at home.

Do not hesitate to take license plate numbers and report aggressive drivers to the local authorities.

Don't be a macho man (or woman) A two-thousand pound vehicle is going to beat us 100% of the time. Get out of the way, then be angry.

Get off the road! I mean, sometimes. Utilize those trails and go to the track once a week. Cut down the odds of an encounter.

Finally, don't think your only danger lies on the open road. Driveways, parking lots, and folks who never mastered the art of backing up are equally dangerous. Be aware of these traffic morons at all times.

Remain vigilant and aware and you will remain safe on the roads, less traveled or not.